Alpha In Africa
Sierra Leone, Africa (Blood Diamond)
Trip: May10 - May 25, 2011
by Ari Fry
“There were questions about faith in my head; Alpha is the place where they came out.” -Pastor Samuel Ngoneh – Ngulala Village
On May 14, 2011 the Alpha course was launched in a small village called Banta, six hours south-east of Freetown, Sierra Leone. For the six months leading up to our mission trip, I had planned for Alpha to be a side note to our stay, taught to a handful of women, on three or four topics. However where I had planned a commercial, God had planned a full scale Broadway Show!
A week before we landed, I was informed that word had spread and pastors from surrounding villages were anticipating the Alpha course upon our arrival. Sparing me months of over analysis and anxiety, on the second full day at our compound, having fourteen days to prepare, I found myself standing before a sea of nearly 30 black faces in an open-air school room.
Their demeanor was pleasant and respectful, yet I quickly learned their kindness was not a byproduct of their being a group of uneducated bush people. On the first day, as we went through “Why Did Jesus Die?” one of the pastors, an ex-Muslim, asked me, “What character traits do you think Jesus displayed causing Peter to proclaim that Jesus is the Christ?” What had I gotten myself into?
Interestingly, as the course progressed, so did the family-like environment that Alpha breeds. By the time we reached “How Does God Guide Us?” on day three, Mohamed Icargbo shared how he escaped from a pair of Nigerian kidnappers by following God’s leading to change clothes, jump out the window of a government embassy in order to blend with the crowd and walk up the street to safety. Now that’s practical Christianity!
Their honest and open questions testified to the success of the course, but also by mid-week Pastor Emmanuel Kamara informed, “Auntie Thewo (my African name meaning “It is Said”, word has spread about this course and my friends in Freetown want to know how they can have it too?” Many asked for the leadership materials so they could take it back to their village churches.
“This course is eye-opening! It’s an Apostle’s teaching!” raved Samuel Ngoneh. As our week long course ended, I was mesmerized by God’s deep, sustainable, and potentially flourishing work that had fallen on rich red soil. I thought, “This is mission’s work with a kingdom legacy!” One that can’t be destroyed by rebels with guns or debris from a hurricane. In fact, this Alpha model could be what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” (Luke 8:8).